Baby coming after this weekend? How new family leave will affect you

dad's sharing parental leave, female breadwinnersOne of our Female Breadwinner readers, Lily Donaldson, helped write a guide on Shared Parental Leave (SPL) after she missed out on the benefits afforded parents having a child after April 5 of this year. In her article she explains: ‘Until now, partners were entitled to two weeks of standard paternity leave, and while additional paternity leave of 26 weeks was also available, only one in 50 used the additional leave. With the introduction of SPL couples will now be able to share 52 weeks of leave between them when they have a baby or adopt.’

This is a boon for female breadwinners in particular as mothers can share their allowance with their partners and return to work more quickly. Before, mums had to wait until 20 weeks after the child was born before passing leave on to her partner. SP Fathers will still be able to take two weeks of paternity leave straight after the child is born that won’t count towards your SPL entitlement. However, additional paternity leave has been replaced by SPL. Let’s watch this space to see if this enables men to actually take more leave…and for employers to understand that families are raised by more than just mothers.

For ambitious woman, is the smart money on seeking a second fiddle spouse?

couple1-e1421849361535While most women and men claim to seek egalitarian relationships, there is at least one group of men who predict at the outset they won’t end up in these idylls. And is there something for modern women to learn from them? Harvard Business School recently surveyed 25,000 recent alums and found that it’s male graduates predicted they’d end up in traditional, 1950’s style nuclear families. The women on the other hand sought out egalitarian relationships – and were more frequently disappointed with their career progress. Rather than see Harvard men simply as sexist, would we do better to view them as pragmatic for today’s institutions – and copy them instead?  These men had spent 2 years studying what it took to develop successful careers and businesses and probably saw how senior people need a good team – in and outside the office.

As explained in Catherine Rampell’s piece in the Washington Post ‘Stuck in the 1950’s’: ‘They’re also members of a socioeconomic class that invests substantially more in their children today than in the past, meaning they may feel the need to have a spouse who has the time to be an active parent.’ We at Female Breadwinners are championing a more egalitarian workplace, where two partners can each have fulfilling careers and an active home life. But until that happens, perhaps the savviest women will be those who seek smart men who’d be willing to play second fiddle to an ambitious woman.

Partner spends too much or too little? Lessons for modern female breadwinners

Female breadwinner and recently looked at ‘Being the breadwinner: A blessing and a curse’. In it, Mackenzie Dawson and I discussed how to react if your male partner spends too little or too much. This is a conundrum made even trickier when you add in gender politics. I’ve coached a banking executive whose lower earning husband didn’t feel he deserved the villa holidays she wanted for them. He insisted they go camping instead. Their compromise? One luxury and one camping holiday a year, that they both paid for respectively.

Equally, I’ve worked with female clients who felt their other halves were a bit too self-indulgent with yet another set of golf clubs, studio recording equipment or lavish nights out with the boys. Have an ongoing and honest dialogue with your partner; people are fluid so continually checking in that it still works well for both of you is vital.

Dawson asked me for my top tips for dealing with partners who spend too much or too little:

  • Lower earning partners may question if they should be spending your earnings. Some will feel reticent to spend it since they haven’t technically earned it through their own paid labour – spending ‘her’ money can be a threat to their masculinity. A great way to change their attitude is to ask how they would feel about you spending their money if they were the main earner? “Often men can see the double standard they are imposing on themselves when they realize they would be happy to provide for her.”

  • On the other hand, potential tensions arise if they are a bit too free with the cash; talk about your joint goals as a family. Ask him about his ideas for the 2 or 3 big goals you have for the year. You each pick a goal plus (new bedroom furniture or a golf trip with the boys) a third you jointly pick, such as a family holiday to Greece. Determine a limit on how much you’ll spend on each goal. Then when decisions over cash come up; ask how spending that money gets you closer or further away from that goal.

Why more successful start-ups are led by women

successful start upIn working with successful career women, we often work with entrepreneurs. In fact, in some of the recent executive leadership coaching workshops I have conducted; almost half the attendees were entrepreneurs, an inconceivable ratio even 10 years ago. We see women’s entrepreneurship as a direct response to feeling overlooked and frustrated in the corporate sector. The problem for their former employers is that when middle and senior management women leave, they take hard-earned knowledge, contacts and ambition with them. Now research shows that when they do go, their new businesses are the real winners.

In fact, a survey late last year by Dow Jones VentureSource, on female executives in start ups found new companies have a better chance of going public, operating profitably or being sold for a net gain if they have women founders or board members. After analysing more than 15 years of venture-backed company data in the United States, the survey discovered the overall median proportion of female executives is 7.1% at successful companies and 3.1% at unsuccessful companies. Also, for start-ups with five or more females, 61% were successful and only 39% failed. This clearly demonstrates the value having more females can potentially bring to a management team.

In an article on Modern start-ups are suited to women, Luke Johnson wrote in the Financial Times, “Diversity in general makes organisations more resilient. Many businesses fall apart thanks to testosterone-fuelled disputes and founders overreaching thanks to rushes of hubris that tend to afflict men more often. Women are well-placed to curb such excess, and keep a project on course with more thoughtful management policies.”

Apart from the benefits they bring start-ups, women also gain from running the show. In other research, women cite flexibility as one of the key reasons they set up on their own. Women can also be more risk-averse than their male counterparts and less willing to sacrifice family life for the business. Neither of these traits are a negative: over-ambition and burnout are prime causes of bankruptcy and commercial failure.

At Female Breadwinners, we wholeheartedly applaud and are proud to be part of this new shift. Diversity of leadership styles brings better overall management and sustainable growth to start-ups, which is great news for both men and women.

Want to know the secret to a better marriage and good sex life?

MP900446473We’re always on the look out for ways to inspire men to see the benefits of pairing with a female breadwinner and join the campaign for gender equality. Today a savvy Scottish female breadwinner sent us the article in The Evening Standard: ‘Lower-earning men ‘better in bedroom’. A UK survey of 1,010 married couples found over half of the men who earned less than their spouses described their love lives as ‘hot’ or ‘very good’. We just had to share this with our forward thinking readers!

The survey by Time’s Money Magazine, ‘Love and Money, By The Numbers’ found:

  • 90% of lesser earning husbands reported ‘happy’ marriages compared to 75% of men whose wives earned less.
  • 56% of lesser earning husbands reported ‘good sex lives’ compared to 44% of men whose wives earned less.
  • Female breadwinners looked after the home finances: 76% of these women paid the bills, compared to 49% of women who earned less than their husbands.

So, is the secret to a better marriage and a good sex life to marry a female breadwinner?

We at Female Breadwinners don’t advocate men quit their jobs to improve their sex lives. However it is certainly another pleasurable reason for men to advocate for greater gender pay equity.


In defence of the the career ‘Queen Bee’

Two Young Women in Front of the Computer TalkingOne of the most frequent complaints I hear from audiences of young women is that the senior women above them don’t mentor or support them enough.  While I understand their frustration at climbing the ladder in male dominated fields, when questioned they admit that not every male boss they ever had was supportive. While I wish we lived in a world where every senior woman offered more support to every junior women, the truth is: there is just not that many senior women to go around for every woman who’d like help and of those who are great mentors. These women are busy; speaking at Women’s Networks, being wheeled out at diversity events in addition to the day job of competing with their male colleagues. Plus, the more they advocate for junior women, the more it draws attention to their ‘otherness’ – something they have usually worked their whole career to help the men look past.

At Female Breadwinners, we think we simply expect these women to be more nurturing, more helpful – perfect advocates and mentors. Our standards are much higher than what we expect in male leaders. A Washington Post article on ‘Queen Bee’ CEOs get scrutiny and flak while ‘king wasps’ get a free pass, commented, “If they [female executives] are too tough, too masculine, they’re Queen Bees. If they’re too soft, too feminine, they’re ineffective leaders. Deemed either likable or competent, they’re rarely judged “just right.”

Women in leadership deal with these double standard by often going to different extremes. Some turn into ‘Queen Bees’ – women who have sacrificed to get where they are, worked harder than any man and expect aspiring others to do the same. If they display little sympathy for flexible working or full maternity leave, for example, they aren’t deemed to be ‘realistic role models’. I routinely hear younger women harshly judge senior women as not having the kind of lives they aspire to. This may be very true, but they rarely speak ill of male bosses who display the same inflexibility in their attitudes. Men are often ‘forgiven’ for these attitudes, as it’s too often what we have come to expect. On the other had, we unfairly ‘expect’ women to be better than that. But the double bind means these women can’t easily be both tough and soft in the same environment.

At Female Breadwinners, we work with companies companies to manage these perceptions by increasing the number of women in leadership roles. The more women become normalized in positions of power, the more likely society is to accept them on their own terms.

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